DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado became the first infielder in history to begin his career with five straight Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, and second baseman DJ LeMahieu claimed his second career Gold Glove honor. The awards were announced Tuesday night on ESPN.
The awards are determined by voting from each league's managers and coaches, who are not permitted to vote for their players, plus 25 percent of the determination is based on the Society for American Baseball Research's SABR Defensive Index. This year marks the first time the Rockies have had multiple Gold Glove Award winners since Arenado and LeMahieu also won together in 2014.
The only player to begin his career with more consecutive Gold Glove Awards than Arenado is Ichiro Suzuki, who won 10 straight in the outfield. Arenado is tied with Adrian Beltre, one of his favorite players during his youth, for the most Gold Gloves among active players at his position, and he's the first NL third baseman to take five straight Gold Gloves since Scott Rolen (2000-04). Arenado's five Gold Gloves are tied with outfielder Larry Walker for the Rockies' club record.
"Five is a pretty special number," Arenado, whose position is recorded as No. 5 on the baseball scorecard, said in his ESPN interview. "I thank God I was able to stay healthy and able to compete out there and do my job.
"It means a lot, knowing the ballplayers that came through this game and the infielders that have been here. The first five years, to do it, I don't know, it's kind of hard to put into words, hard to comprehend. I'll probably look back on it later in my career, or in life, and realize how special it was. Right now, I'm trying to win as many as I can while I'm healthy."
Arenado is a regular on the highlight packages, but his signature 2017 play occurred on June 28, when he dove to stop a grounder from Giants pitcher Ty Blach, then did a rear-end spin and made a solid throw for the out at first base. The highlight is a nominee for Best Defensive Play in the MLB Esurance Awards. It is one of several categories in which Arenado is nominated, with the winners determined by fan voting.
"First of all, it was a brutal dive," Arenado said. "I missed the ball, but lucky I was able to recover with the bare hand. I just spun and threw it. I wasn't really thinking. I just got the ball out. I had a good first baseman in Mark Reynolds. I knew that he could take care of the rest, and he did."
LeMahieu's percentage of double plays turned improved greatly in 2017, from 55 percent in '16 to 67 percent. LeMahieu, at 6-foot-4, is taller than most at his position. He takes advantage of his reach and has perfected the double-knee slide, which leads to a spinning throw to first base.
LeMahieu's .991 career fielding percentage is No. 1 all time among second basemen who have played 650 or more games. This past season, LeMahieu led NL players at his position in total chances (729), assists (470), double plays (106), fielding percentage (.989), defensive WAR (1.2) and range factor per game (4.71). He and Troy Tulowitzki are the only Rockies middle infielders to win multiple Gold Gloves.
Statistical measures favored Arenado and LeMahieu. Arenado led NL third basemen with a SABR Defensive Index of 11. In fact, only Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward had a higher index. LeMahieu led at his position.
Also, under the FanGraphs metric of Defensive Runs Saved, Arenado led Major League third basemen with 20, and LeMahieu paced Major League second basemen with eight.
The Rockies were represented by three finalists. Gerardo Parra was up for the award in left field, and he might have grabbed it had he not missed 28 games with a right quadriceps injury. The Marlins' Marcell Ozuna won the award.
Arenado and LeMahieu could be prime candidates for the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award. Fan voting on the Rawlings web site began after the ESPN show; the SABR Defensive Index also is part of the system for determining one winner in each league.